Organizing Matters to Workers and Cities

Supporting and working with membership-based organizations of informal workers is a key way to address urban poverty and to work towards better planned, inclusive cities. Membership-based organizations help informal workers:

  • use their collective strength to negotiate better wages and conditions
  • receive better prices from those who buy their products
  • pool their limited resource and increase their access to financial resources
  • gain influence in policy arenas
  • access existing social protection systems
  • access support systems for members
  • work in safer environments.

When membership-based organizations are empowered, they can be able partners with policymakers and planners. Empowered MBOs:

  • can jointly solve urban management issues with urban authorities
  • proactively identify solutions
  • supply officials with much needed data for planning purposes
  • develop new economic activity
  • create new initiatives
  • participate in policy dialogues and planning processes
  • contribute to the public good.

There are strong international, regional, national, and local movements of home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers:

  • StreetNet International was started in Durban in 2002 after three years of mobilizing street vendor organizations in Africa and Asia. Through affiliation with StreetNet, member organizations gain an understanding of street vendors’ common problems, develop new ideas for strengthening their organizing and advocacy efforts, and join in international campaigns to promote policies and actions that can contribute to improving the lives of millions of street vendors, market vendors and hawkers around the world.
  • The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a networking process WIEGO has supported since 2008. GlobalRec consists of thousands of waste picker organizations from more than 28 countries mostly found in Latin Amercia, Asia and Afria. Global Rec has provided the means for waste pickers from to offer real solutions to climate change at UN events on Climate Change.
  • In India, organizations SEWA and NASVI were critical in leading the struggle for the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, which resulted in India’s Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014. The Act protects the rights of urban street vendors and regulates street vending activities.
  • HomeNet South Asia, which has recently adopted the 2015 Delhi Declaration on Home-Based Workers, aims to empower women to lead a life of dignity, free of poverty, through decent work and social protection. With a presence in eight countries, HNSA advocates for policies for home-based workers and the inclusion of home-based workers in existing policies and laws. It also promotes home-based workers’ products on local, national, regional, and international markets.
  • Home-based workers in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand came together in 1997 to form HomeNet SouthEast Asia. Later joined by workers from Laos and Cambodia, HomeNet SEA advocates for social protection, occupational health and safety, gender-responsive participatory governance, fair trade, and improved legislation for labour rights and standards.
  • In Latin America/the Caribbean, waste pickers have formed RedLacre, a representative and inclusive organization of labor movements that group recyclers countries in the region. RedLacre improves working conditions, encourages dialogue between countries to exchange experiences, and to design and execute actions.
  • In Pune, India, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) formed in 1993 when waste pickers gathered in a hall and talked about how they could gain better rights and working conditions. Now, it is a trade union that brings together waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers, waste collectors, and other informal recyclers. One of KKPK’s significant milestones was the creation of SWaCH, a wholly-owned workers’ cooperative that provides door-to-door collection services through a Pro-Poor, Public/Private Partnership with the city.


Partnership Creates Gains

Real gains are happening throughout the developing world where planners and policy makers are working with informal workers.

From Accra to Bogota and from Delhi to Kathmandu, worker organizations are working with municipal officials to solve urban management issues to gaining solid waste management contracts to improving the working conditions and incomes of home-based workers. Read about the impact of the Inclusive Cities Project. 



Building Organizations helps equip MBO leaders with the tools they need in policy and negotiation arenas. Resource include collective bargaining case studies, best practice examples, and materials for building gender-equitable organizations.